Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Venice-set Mystery/Suspense

 I have posted innumerable photos to this blog in ten-plus years, and other than pics of my grandchildren, the one below comes close to touching me most. Taken right here in Longwood (FL), it was posted to Nextdoor, our neighborhood email loop. Evidently an elderly lady was out shopping on her electric scooter when it broke down. In the rain. And four young men pushed her all the way home. Someone noticed them and posted this photo to Nextdoor.


The next time you're tempted to think badly of teens . . .


 Last-minute addition - Friday, October 15, 2021:

The long-awaited, just-revealed national Girl Scout video, featuring a whole slew of new looks for Scouts from 7-17, was created at my son-in-law's studio in Longwood (with a side trip to a studio in Orlando for a different backdrop for the older girls). I played a small role as "checker-in" for those participating in the day-long shoot in Longwood. My daughter Susie was the co-ordinator for the event, with two ladies down from the GS national office in NYC, overseeing rolling racks of the new uniforms in a variety of sizes. True excitement, and the result . . .

For the Girl Scout video, click here.


Blair's Venice-set Mysteries & Suspense

Having spent two weeks blogging about south Sarasota County, Florida—Venice in particular—I thought I should finish off this segment of Grace's Mosaic Moments with a list of my Romantic Suspense and Mysteries set in Venice and neighboring Sarasota, with a shout-out to Orlando. All are available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, OverDrive & Scribd. 


Romantic Suspense:


A killer gloats as he stalks Realtors in the Gulf Coast resort community of Golden Beach, Florida, where Claire Langdon, a sophisticated but vulnerable New England widow with a young son, now works in real estate. When she acquires a self-proclaimed protector—a half-Russian, half-Florida cracker ex-Fed—vercoming the cultural shock is almost as difficult as catching the killer.


 Suffering from burn-out, Mandy Armitage, a vital member of her family's international investigations agency, is sent on a working vacation to Florida—as research assistant to a best-selling author. The only problem:  the author is the husband she hasn't seen in five years. As if that weren't enough of a challenge, her assignment plunges her into the darkness of international human trafficking and the ruthless men who run it. As the world around her literally goes up in flames, the girl once known as Mandy Mouse metamorphoses into a dynamic, independent woman, as she discovers how easily black and white can dissolve into shades of gray.

Note:  Cross-over characters from Shadowed Paradise make appearances in Paradise Burning.


 A Florida Highway Patrol officer investigates his brother's injury in a Medieval Fair tournament and discovers an astounding sub-culture in today's Florida—the Medieval re-enactment group, the Lords & Ladies of Chivalry. He also finds a Lady Knight, fighting her way out of years of abuse. Michael Turco and Kate Knight both have a great deal to learn before they can solve a crime and lay each other's ghosts and preconceptions.


Romantic Suspense (Orlando area):

A fledgling PI finds herself in the midst of an international incident with only an oversize mystery man to help her through a maze of Middle-eastern politics, Florida rednecks, and an all-too-elusive love.


Mystery (Venice):


And, yes, that's Machu Picchu

Want to get married in a hot air balloon? Have the bride step out of a Fabergé egg? Just call Fantascapes, the Halliday family business. Trouble in paradise? Call Laine Halliday, who travels the world smoothing out bumps encountered by high-end clients. But when Fantascapes is used as a front by the Russian mob, in action ranging from Florida to Peru to France, Laine steps into a whole new world of Serve and Protect.


 Death by accident, old age, and strangulation. An elderly senior about to marry a con artist. A rash of burglaries. Only an artistic imagination could conjure these disasters into connected events. But costume designer Gwyn Halliday manages it as she flees trauma in the big city only to discover that bad things can also happen in a sleepy Florida retirement community.


Mystery (Sarasota):


Someone is killing people at the Bellman Museum, staging the deaths as bizarre works of art. Though struggling to recover from a severe injury and the death of her lover, FBI Special Agent Rory Travis can't resist the challenge of tackling this mystery, which brings two new men into her life. But in the end she stands alone, facing evil one-on-one.

Note: Many will recognize the primary setting as the John & Mable Ringling Museum.

Suspense/Thriller w/Orlando scenes:


A lost Russian nuke plunges FBI Special Agent Vee Frost into a world-wide chase, from East Coast to the Mid-West, from Florida to Siberia, on to Iran, and back again. Her only companion, an amnesiac Russian who may have the key to the location of the lost bomb locked in his head.

Note:   During the chaos of the break-up of the Soviet Union (c. 1990), ten nuclear bombs went missing. Limbo Man is a tale of "what might have been."


Romantic Suspense w/Florida scenes:


A threat to an organic foods business brings together two people from diverse backgrounds—one from New England and Palm Beach; the other, a tough second-generation Hispanic entrepreneur. Their fight to save the pure foods they grow and sell is complicated by teenage relatives who are being used by a terrorist for his own ends. And by a culture clash strong enough to resound over two continents. Even if they win their fight against terrorism and corporate greed, their personal differences may be more difficult to solve.

 ~ * ~


For a link to Blair's updated website, click here.

 For a link to Blair's updated Facebook Author Page

with background details on Secrets, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Venice - the Gulf Coast's Best-Kept Secret

As mentioned last week, I'm really torn about revealing the long-kept secret of the setting of my mystery novels, that artificial "island" on Florida's Gulf Coast, called Venice. And yes, the name is deliberate. Way back in the 1920s Venice was one of the first "planned" communities in the nation, its streets carefully laid out, its architecture coordinated, emphasizing the Mediterranean look with red-tiled roofs—a style that has become ubiquitous in Florida.

Below are a few photos from the little city of my heart, one of the best places to live in the whole wide world. (Which is why I've kept it a secret for so long—I really want it to stay the way it is and not get paved over and built up until it's indistinguishable from the artificiality of that Disney World for Adults, the Villages.)

Photos in the order of my explorations back to former haunts:


North Manasota Beach, just south of Venice

Snook Haven on the Myakka River - 10 miles inland

Caspersen Beach - Venice, Gulfside

A tiny portion of boulevarded Venice Ave. (Main Street)

Venice Avenue extends from Venice Beach on the Gulf of Mexico 10 miles inland to the Myakka River, which is so much of a jungle that early Tarzan movies were filmed there. (It always reminds me of the river in Apocalypse Now.) In the town center Venice Avenue features two blocks of unique boutiques. (I always try to get to Venice Stationers at least once each fall to buy their Florida-oriented Christmas cards.) And then there's Sea Pleasures & Treasures, a shop that offers many wonders from the sea, including the sharks' teeth for which Venice is famous. (Also the many findings needed to turn sea treasures into bolo ties, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, etc.) And then there's the children's clothing shop. All three of these businesses have been on Venice Avenue since I first saw it in 1964, and they've been joined by other unique shops and restaurants, even a Sotheby's! 

Even the alley between shops & parking is decorative.

The South Jetties, looking West

The Venice Jetties are the only access between the Gulf of Mexico and the Intercoastal Waterway for ten miles in either direction. Pretty quiet this time of year but madly busy during "the Season" - December - March.

From the South Jetty, looking north, with a storm coming in

Seagrape flower at the edge of the Jetty.

I included the Crow's Nest (near the Jetties) in my list of pilgrimage sites, eating in the "pub" downstairs instead of the glass-fronted restaurant on the second story, because that small, intimate pub is where I ate when I wanted a night out during the early years of my widowhood. The pub includes a seafood market, and while there last week I teased them for alleging that their "Wellfleet" oysters were from Maine. Having lived in Wellfleet, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, when I was four - and having tromped the muddy oyster beds there during many subsequent visits - I knew better!

The Crow's Nest also offers dockage - jammed w/50-100' yachts in winter

Crow's Nest, looking west toward the Jetties

The rain came tumbling down, and as it finally cleared, it was time to go to the Venice Boat Ramp (down by the old train station where one of the Ringling Brothers' train cars is now a museum) and pick Susie up. Below, a photo of an egret and the boat launch ramp with the Rte. 41 drawbridge in the background.

Egret, boat ramp, Shakett Creek & drawbridge

Below, a few photos from other trips to Venice, some taken by daughter Susie, including these manatees from her latest (and last of the season) diving trip.

Mating season

Caspersen Beach, 2016

Erosion - Caspersen's, 2016

Lunch on Venice Avenue, 2016

An "oops" at the Jetties (occupant saved)

Venice Sunset 2020

Venice Sunset, 2020

No wonder cars line up along the beaches every night, year round!

~ * ~



As always, a 20% free read is available at Smashwords.

For a link to Secrets on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Secrets on Smashwords, click here.


For a link to Blair's updated website, click here.

 For a link to my updated Facebook Author Page

with background details on Secrets, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Venice - Florida's Best-kept Secret

 I was driving out of my subdivision Tuesday afternoon when I saw these three Sandhill Cranes. Fortunately, no one was behind me, so I was able to stop and take this photo out the car window.

Sandhill Cranes, Longwood, FL - 9/28/21



 This is a story that began decades ago (and no, I won't admit to how many). For three years (when I was age 5-8), my father was principal of the high school in Mansfield, Massachusetts. The Superintendent of Schools and his wife were a Mr. & Mrs. Merrill. My family kept in touch with them through the years, even after my father took a job in Connecticut and Mr. Merrill retired to Florida. Many years later, my parents retired not to Florida but to Cape Cod, where my father had his first job out of Harvard Graduate School as Principal (and Science & Math teacher) at the small high school in Wellfleet. Our family loved the Cape, visited it every year, so naturally that's where they wished to retire. Except . . .

My father always wrote wonderful letters, descriptive and full of humor. I still recall the one where he said, "Your mother just came in all excited. A car passed by outside." This, alas, was Cape Cod in the winter; specifically Orleans, though I imagine the absence of people was even worse in smaller towns like Wellfleet and Truro. In short, my parents began to look for a "winter cottage" in Florida. And guess where they looked? In the town where their old friends, the Merrills, had retired so many years before. (I've often wondered where the Merrills learned about Venice, but that is destined to remain forever a secret.)

Which brings us to Florida's Best-kept Secret. Venice, on Florida's Gulf Coast, has so much going for it, I won't even try to make a list. I lived in Venice myself for 25 years, moving there while my children were in high school. I began my writing in Venice, using it as the setting for most of my mysteries. And yes, Venice is the town I kept nameless for so long because its residents really, really want to keep an influx of snowbirds from over-running the area's amazing offerings of ocean, waterway, rivers, and wilderness surrounding a core of unique boutiques, gourmet restaurants, boating, fishing, diving, hiking, etc., etc. Venice is where my daughter started picking up fossilized sharks' teeth on the beach when barely old enough to toddle (while visiting the grandparents over winter break) and just in the past year she learned to scuba so she could dive for sharks' teeth off the Venice coast.

Earlier this month, I accompanied Susie back to Venice. While she went diving, I had an absolute ball driving around to some of my favorite places, most of which have remained the same, thank goodness, since I moved to Orlando in 2007. (Park facilities have improved; more beach access opened up through the dunes, and yes, more subdivisions, but the Venice/Nokomis/Englewood area has done a great job of keeping its beauty spots intact.)

A couple of statistics before the pics. Venice Avenue (main street) stretches ten miles, from Venice Beach on the west and to the Myakka River to the east (the road turning to gravel for the last mile). Downtown Venice became an island when the Intracoastal Waterway was built, the only access over three drawbridges. Venice was home to Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey for more than a quarter century - until the rail line deteriorated to the point that no one could afford to fix it. While I lived there, the arrival of the circus to its winter quarters next to the airport was a Grand Event. And I suspect Venice was one of the few towns in the country that could boast live camels and llamas in its Christmas pageant! 

On the negative side, Venice airport became notorious the day after 9/11, when it was discovered Mohammad Atta, coordinator of the Al Queda pilots, learned to fly in Venice and contacted the other pilots through the computers at the local library (confiscated by the FBI on 9/12). But, fortunately, that is only blot on Venice's reputation, and it has bounced back to maintain its rating as an ideal place to live.

If Venice is so great, why did I move to Orlando? To be near the grandchildren, of course. But Venice will always have my heart. The best place I've ever lived, bar none.

Susie had to be at the dive boat by 7:45 a.m., so the first thing I needed after dropping her off was COFFEE. I bypassed a number of drive-thrus and just kept going until I reached my old neighborhood in South Venice. Sure enough, Dunkin' Donuts was still there. I got a large coffee and a jelly donut and was stepping off the curb on my way back to my car when the entire tall cup of hot coffee spilled—over the hood of my car, over me. I mean, I was a mess. Dripping, I went back in, got a refill, which I treated much more gingerly before getting it into the car's cup-holder. So . . . first stop - find a place to change. (Fortunately, I'd packed an extra pair of pants.) My first stop, Shamrock Park in South Venice, had grown immensely; in fact, it was still growing, the community house/restrooms closed for reconstruction. Oops. I parked long enough to take a few gulps of coffee, but the front of my shorts was still more brown than blue. So I turned south and kept going until I ended up on Manasota Key, just south of Venice, where the beach just over the north drawbridge now has a large building, tastefully hidden under palm trees, with various offices and meeting rooms besides clean, good-sized restrooms. Changed  at last, I found a bench overlooking the beach, caught my breath, sipped my coffee, enjoyed a conversation with a stranger on a bicycle, and just flat-out enjoyed being "home" again.

Since my tale has meandered on for so long, only a pic or two below. Will save the majority for next week's blog. Seriously, we'd all like to keep Venice a secret, but it really is too great a place not to share. So, if you're zipping by on I-75, take one of those Venice exits and discover what I'm talking about.

~ * ~

Susie and I started off our Venice visit by enjoying an excellent, if noisy, meal at Pop's Sunset Grill in Nokomis, which used to be a kind of "good ol' boy" place on the Intracoastal but has transformed into decor, menu, and prices that rival Venice's finest. It was extra loud when we were there due to a "bachelorette" party.


Pop's Sunset Grill

Taken from my bench on Manasota Beach

From Susie's most recent dive

~ * ~

The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle, a Regency Gothic featuring multiples ghosts, multiple murders, and a second chance at love, is now available through most online vendors.


As always, a 20% free read is available at Smashwords.

For a link to Secrets on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Secrets on Smashwords, click here.


For a link to my updated Facebook Author Page

with background details on Secrets, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)